The House of Representatives is now looking at allotting bigger budgets for agencies concerned with COVID-19 responses to ensure that the country can sufficiently address the needs of both people and the health community.
Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun (1st district) said there were flaws in the proposed budget as what came out in the debates. There is still a chance to address the issues such as the substantial deficiencies in the DOH budget for COVID-19 response, the considerable inadequacy of the Department of Education’s budget for self-learning modules and the hefty cut in the appropriations for the Department of Social Welfare and Development, among them.
The small committee, and later, the Bicameral Conference Committee should address these critical concerns by late December, he added.
He said at least the country averted having a reenacted budget in 2021 and the change in speakership also ensured the house minority a chance to exert fiscalizing role to make sure next year’s budget addresses COVID-19 and economic recovery.
“It is not a perfect budget and we may not agree with certain items therein, but we are thankful that it has been promptly approved by the House,” he said.
What’s sure is we won’t be operating on a reenacted budget in 2021, otherwise we would be in a quandary as the same would not be responsive to the demands to curb the pandemic and mitigate its harsh impact on the country, Fortun cited.
He thanked new Speaker Lord Alan Velasco for reopening the Second Reading and reverting to the period of sponsorship and debate. “This gives us in the Minority further opportunity to interpellate on important items of the budget especially those of departments and agencies that play critical roles in the COVID-19 response.”
The sudden termination of the plenary debates and the hasty approval on Second Reading last October 6 was anomalous. We were prompted in the Minority to continue with our own deliberations consistent with our role as fiscalizers to ensure transparency and accountability in the utilization of public funds, he added.
Before the year ends, the House should be ready for the bicameral conference to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the budget bill, ratify the approved reconciled bill, and send it swiftly to Malacanang for signature of President Rodrigo Duterte.